Upwork Q&A: Make Upwork Work For Your Freelancing Career With These Tips
Yay! You are ready to take your Upwork profile up a notch! I'm so excited for you! I know that Upwork can be a confusing, hot mess, so I decided to help you decode a few things with a Q&A. I hope that this article will help decode Upwork for you and answer some of your burning questions about the platform. Let's get started!
Note: Some of these questions were submitted, while some of them I created. I needed more Qs, y'all!
What are your best tips for getting your Upwork profile approved?
Upwork can be finicky when it comes to profile approvals. You may have applied and been told that your skill is not needed. This happens when you are extremely skill specific, and they aren't sure how you could contribute outside of that skill.
So, what you should always do is try to share all the skills that you have with Upwork. Likely, you have a ton of skills, so you should share those. Even if you only actively work in one category, having other category options readily available is always great. Plus, you never know, you might find a dream client in one of those different categories.
I mainly work from the “Article & Blog Writing” category, but I occasionally check the following categories:
- Data Entry
- Web Research
- Social Media Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization
- Marketing Strategy
- Email & Marketing Automation
- Web Content
- Editing & Proofreading
Be open about the categories you can work in, but only if you feel comfortable working in those categories. Don't lie to get your acceptance email, just open up your categories to include more options instead of just focusing on one.
You also want to do the same for the skills category. Make sure you are sharing a wide array of skills to show potential clients and the Upwork team.
When you diversify the categories and skills you have, along with adding winning samples and a great profile summary (which we will talk about at length in a second) you are sure to get an acceptance email.
What are your tips for creating a profile summary that gets people excited to work with you?
Your profile summary is vital as a freelancer. Not only does it impact jobs that you apply for, but it also impacts jobs that come to you. Did you know that the average Upwork user doesn't even see many of the jobs that happen on Upwork? There is a vast “underground” work scene happening on the platform, but not in a shady way. People use the Freelancer Search tool on Upwork to find freelancers they want to work with based on keywords, and then contact them directly.
Earlier this year I was commissioned to write a series of emails for a client to the tune of $350. I had no prior contact with this client, $350 just showed up in my inbox. I have had a few clients like this. Money without pitching, sign me up! I mean, you want to do a little bit of research on the client before jumping in to say yes. Overall, though, you can find some great clients just by creating an excellent profile.
Here is a screenshot of my profile summary:
Your Upwork profile is your chance to brag on yourself, so make sure that you are bragging. You also need to make sure that you are focusing on what your ideal clients need. Whether you are a writer, programmer, photographer, or anything else:
What do your clients need you to be proficient in?
If you would like to do your job correctly, what do your clients need from you? Provide that to them, y'all. Show that you know your subject matter and what your ideal client needs. Share the sites and software that they need you to be good at (and that you are good at.) Be an open book, but also keep it simple and easy to read. Keep the paragraphs small and easily scannable so your clients can quickly understand who you are and why you are a good fit for their company.
Showcase your personality so that they can fall in love with it.
What else do you need to make your profile stand out?
Here are some other things that will help your profile stand out:
- A friendly profile picture
- A title that stands out and showcases who you are
- At least four portfolio items that your potential client can check out (even if you made them with no client in mind)
Share those three things along with your educational background, work history, and skills and your profile will be good as gold.
How do you land your first few gigs when you have no reviews?
Having no reviews on Upwork can be quite tricky, and it depends on what kind of experience you have outside Upwork. No matter what your freelance profession is, here are some tips on landing gigs when you have no reviews:
Focus On Your Reviews From Clients Outside Of Upwork
When you are applying for a new job, you may want to mention what someone else has said about you in the application. For example, if you are applying to be a content writer, dig through your reviews from other clients you have worked in the same field off the site. Mention your progress with that client like this:
“In my role with (xyz client) I was able to create content that reached a wide audience, a few of my posts were even shared on Pinterest over 500 times. When this client left a review of my services, they said, ‘insert great review here.' They were one of my favorite clients to work with because I got to share my passion for (abc topic) with their audience.”
Fill Up Your Portfolio
Clients often look at your profile to see if they can trust you. When they check out your profile, they should be greeted by a wide array of portfolio pieces so they can get to know you and your style.
Be A Great Cover Letter Writer
I've noticed something about cover letters. When I take the time to put a little more thought and effort into writing my Upwork cover letters, I am more likely to get a response. Cover letters are sometimes the only way that your potential client will get to know you. They may never check out your profile at all. Instead, they may use the cover letter to gauge whether or not you are a good fit for them.
Make it personal. Use their name if you have it. Talk about things people in their niche care about. Go the extra mile to put your human touch on your cover letters.
People want to work with humans and people who care. It will only take you five minutes to take your cover letter from good to excellent with a few tweaks and additions. So once you write the basic cover letter, set a timer for five minutes to see how you can take it to the next level.
What is your #1 tip for putting in the best application possible?
My #1 tip is simple: understand the layout of the application from the client end.
So many people focus on the cover letter first, because it's the cover letter. But if a potential client asks supplemental questions, they see those before the cover letter. It's backward, but it's the way that the Upwork system works. I even used to think that the cover letter was first, so I would spend so much time working on perfecting the cover letter, that I neglected the supplemental questions.
So, here's what you need to do: work on the supplemental questions first. If they ask you a question about your expertise or your excitement about the project, get those out of the way first. Then, after you've worked on the supplemental questions, go back to the cover letter and fill in the gaps they need to know about you as a freelancer.
Your potential Upwork clients won't thank you for your effort, but your wallet will when you get more jobs from Upwork!
How do you manage to find big assignments (upwards of 2k words)?
One of the best ways to get bigger assignments is to target higher paying jobs. Most of the time if the job pays a higher fee per post, they are looking for bigger word counts.
Overall, though, it's much better to find a job that wants a lower word count if they are looking for a long-term relationship. It seems that a lot of the jobs I have gotten with longer word counts have mostly managed to be one-off things. Some have managed to last longer than that, though.
I keep most assignments under 2,000 words with the occasional 2,000+ article coming my way.
You also may want to check out the types of writing jobs you are applying for. Blogs tend to be smaller in word count, but when I apply to write “guides” or “ebooks” those tend to be longer assignments.
Do you stay exclusively in the same niche or do you do a bit of everything?
I have personally done a little bit of it all, with my primary focus being on digital marketing, higher education, and human resources content. I've used Upwork to experiment with a wide array of articles though. I've done pieces on home offices, fashion, lifestyle, and more through the Upwork platform.
One person I admire on Upwork has made most of her money by being a targeted women's fashion copywriter and product copy expert. She has made thousands on Upwork taking on just fashion and beauty brand copywriting.
You can find a lot of clients on Upwork, even if you niche down. Remember that underground market on Upwork we talked about earlier? Even if you niche down, you will still find clients that love your work!
How do you get consistent work? How do I stop my clients from ghosting on me?
Honestly, I've never been able to stop clients from ghosting on me completely. I think it's just a matter of the Upwork game in some regards. There are a lot of flaky clients on Upwork who may be using the platform for quick work without regard to the worker and their needs. Overall, sometimes you have to let a client go, though.
Here are the best ways I've found to stop a client from ghosting, at least for a little while:
- Make it easy on them: Do your work on time, turn in stellar work, and go above and beyond their expectations when you can.
- Tick the “More Than 3 Months” box on Project Length: This will help you search for jobs only looking to hire freelancers for more than three months.
- Try out hourly work: Hourly work tends to be more long-term in a sense over fixed-price work. We know I am a personally a sucker for a good fixed-price job though.
- See how long other relationships have lasted: If they have been on Upwork for a while, see how long their other freelancer relationships have lasted. If they've had a string of one-off clients, you can probably expect the same to happen to you.
- Reach out: You can always reach out after the project is done to see if they need any more help from you. Keep yourself top of mind. You may not get a project right away, but they could start thinking of you when they need a freelancer down the road.
You never know why a client ghosts on you when they seemed so gung-ho about your collaboration to begin with. Keep yourself top of mind with them, and you'd be surprised that they may need your help in the coming months if you keep doing your thing.
For example, earlier this summer, a client I hadn't spoken with since August of last year reached out to me to do three more posts with them this summer. It wasn't a long-term thing, but I was able to show them once again that I was a great writer, so they'd feel more confident hiring me when they could hire writers more regularly.
How do you stop from getting sucked into the low-paying gig work on Upwork?
Upwork can seem like a low-paying festival where all the clients want to pay you pennies for your hard work, all the time. While this is the case for some potential clients, others want to pay you a fair wage for your work. How do you find those clients among the rubble? You have got to have a thick skin, and you have got to know your worth.
It's not worth having a ton of clients knocking down your door if you can't afford to pay your bills. Let me say that one more time for the people in the back: it's nor worthing having a ton of clients knocking down your door if you can't afford to pay your bills.
So, here's what you have to do: stop letting the low paying offers get to you. If someone wants a logo for $10 or an article for $3, let that be someone else's problem. Someone will take that money, gladly, but you don't have to.
Some clients are willing to pay a higher rate. You may just have to dig a bit deeper to find well-paying clients.
My go to settings when searching for a job are:
- Client Info: Payment Verified
- Client Location: United States (sometimes Canada if I'm feeling the need to branch out)
Sometimes I put “U.S. Only” on to see if I can find any exciting jobs. I occasionally also check Experience Level: Intermediate or even put a budget down. The issue with budget, though, is that sometimes potential clients don't put the budget they are willing to pay in that spot. They may not be sure exactly what their budget is, so they just put in a placeholder number.
Bottom line: don't discourage yourself. There will be low-paying jobs out there, there will be people taking those jobs, and that doesn't have to affect you or your worth. Look past the clients paying pennies and hone in on your worth, then perform amazingly well for any client who is willing to pay your worth, so you get great reviews. Over time, those reviews will lead you to more clients who are willing to pay you what you are worth. Can I get a #yes?!
Upwork can be confusing to navigate, and it can make any freelancer want to rip their hair out. I hope that you enjoyed this little peek into my world as a freelancer and a look at how to take your Upwork account to the next level. I know that you can make Upwork work for your freelancing career, it's just a matter of time.